AustLit logo
The C. J. Dennis Prize for Poetry
Subcategory of Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

Winners

2018 winner y separately published work icon Argosy Bella Li , Newtown : Vagabond Press , 2017 11075538 2017 selected work poetry

'This innovative full-length collection, drawing inspiration from the surrealist collage novels of Max Ernst, is an arresting and utterly unique assemblage of poetry, collage and photography. In two parts, the book engages with themes of travel and exploration, language and loss, identity and originality, as well as the relationship between poetry and other disciplines: the visual arts, history, literature and film. Polyglot in sensibility and content, and daring in construction, Argosy defies categorisation. Grounded firmly in Australian contemporary poetic practice, the book is also outward-looking in its approach to form and content; it constitutes a landmark in both local and international poetics.' (Publication Summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Carrying the World Maxine Beneba Clarke , Sydney : Hachette Australia , 2016 9459290 2016 selected work poetry

'A haunting visit to the International Museum of Slavery, in Liverpool, England. A feisty young black girl pushing back against authority. The joy and despair of single parenthood. A love-hate relationship with words.

'This collection brings the best of a decade-long international poetry career to the page.' (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Crankhandle : Notebooks November 2010-June 2012 Alan Loney , Melbourne : Cordite Press , 2015 8815115 2015 selected work poetry

'Crankhandle is the latest part of an ongoing Notebooks series, the first part of which was published as Sidetracks: Notebooks 1976–1991 (Auckland University Press 1998). Between Sidetracks and Crankhandle comes a longer unpublished section, Melbourne Journal: Notebooks 1998–2003, begun when I first came to Australia. From the beginning, these writings were never seen as notes or sketches towards poems that were yet to be fully realised – each entry was intended to be as finished an act of writing as any other, longer, individual work.

'Over the nearly forty years of this endeavour, there have of course been gaps, but the Notebooks provide a way for me to be quickly attentive to my environment, and to circumstances of wherever I might happen to be sitting, standing, waiting, travelling at any time. Perhaps one could speak of the individual pieces as ‘fragments’, but they are not fragments in the way that ancient Greek poetry has come to us on torn, worn, eaten, half-destroyed bits of papyrus. If these works are fragments, then each of Ezra Pound’s cantos are also fragments, placed against the totality of all poetry, from all over the planet, and from throughout recorded world history. In this sense, fragments are all we have, and will ever have. If some are very long and some very short, then that is simply how things are.

–Alan Loney' (Publication summary)

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Beautiful Anxiety Jill Jones , Glebe : Puncher and Wattmann , 2013 6702188 2013 selected work poetry (taught in 1 units)

'The Beautiful Anxiety continually breaks across boundaries of the intimate and the global in an invigorating and unsettling mix of materialist and speculative writing on the interconnectedness of life amidst the environmental and cultural turmoil of the 21st century. The poems are in turn provocative, tender, impatient, playful, and swerve through the world, awake to its lostness as well as its ‘flesh and spark’.' (Publisher's blurb)

2012 winner y separately published work icon Armour John Kinsella , Sydney : Picador , 2011 Z1820009 2011 selected work poetry (taught in 2 units)

'With Armour, the great Australian poet John Kinsella has written his most spiritual work to date - and his most politically engaged. The world in which these poems unfold is strangely poised between the material and the immaterial, and everything which enters it - kestrel and fox, moth and almond - does so illuminated by its own vivid presence: the impression is less a poet honouring his subjects than uncannily inhabiting them. Elsewhere we find a poetry of lyric protest, as Kinsella scrutinizes the equivocal place of the human within this natural landscape, both as tenant and self-appointed steward.

'Armour is a beautifully various work, one of sharp ecological and social critique - but also one of meticulous invocation and quiet astonishment, whose atmosphere will haunt the reader long after they close the book.' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon The Taste of River Water Cate Kennedy , Carlton North : Scribe , 2011 Z1773745 2011 selected work poetry
2010 winner y separately published work icon Possession : Poems about the Voyage of Lt James Cook in The Endeavour 1768-1771 Anna Nicholson , Parkville : Five Islands Press , 2010 Z1667941 2010 selected work poetry
2009 winner y separately published work icon The Golden Bird : New and Selected Poems Robert Adamson , Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2008 Z1535162 2008 selected work poetry 'The Golden Bird brings together the best of Robert Adamson's work from the last four decades, as well as many superb new poems. Selected and arranged by the author, it provides an accessible introduction to Australia's foremost lyric poet and an insight into the recurring themes that have shaped his remarkable body of work.' (Publisher's blurb)
2008 winner y separately published work icon Press Release Lisa Gorton , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2007 Z1457171 2007 selected work poetry 'Press Release is Lisa Gorton's first book of poems. At its centre is a sequence set in the Mallee district of Victoria in the last years of World War II. Using elegies, dramatic monologues, portrait poems and lyrics, it explores the experience of first settlement in a meditation on ambition, patience and waste. Other poems are set in cities and in the future.' (Publisher's blurb)
2007 winner y separately published work icon Jack Judy Johnson , Acton : Pandanus Books , 2006 Z1340195 2006 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 2 units) 'This fast-paced verse novel is set on a pearling lugger in the Torres strait in the 1930s. Using historical evidence from the documentary record and the participants themselves, Japanese, Islander, Aboriginal and European, Johnson offers insights into life at sea as part of one of the most dangerous occupations, where divers routinely died or were crippled by the bends.' - Back cover
2006 winner y separately published work icon Urban Myths : 210 Poems : New and Selected John Tranter , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2006 Z1268860 2006 selected work poetry (taught in 4 units)

'Urban Myths: 210 Poems brings the best work to date from a poet considered one of the most original of his generation in Australia, together with a generous selection of new work. Smart, wry and very stylish, John Tranter’s poems investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to converge life, imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the deepest human mysteries.' (Publication summary)

2005 winner y separately published work icon More or Less Than 1-100 i "not simply the stremam but they who thought of following", M. T. C. Cronin , Exeter : Shearsman Books , 2004 Z1150469 2004 single work poetry The poem More or Less Than 1-100 'consists of 100 parts, the line-count arcing from one line in part 1 to fifty lines in part 50, and then back down to one in part 100 with parts of equal line-counts making mirroring pairs.' (Back cover)
2004 winner y separately published work icon Wolf Notes Judith Beveridge , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2003 Z1099576 2003 selected work poetry (taught in 3 units)
2003 winner y separately published work icon Anything the Landlord Touches Emma Lew , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2002 Z991358 2002 selected work poetry

'Anything the Landlord Touches was Emma Lew's second collection to be published in Australia, where it was published by Giramondo of Newcastle, NSW, in 2002. The book won the C.J. Dennis Prize for Poetry (the Victorian State Premier's award for poetry), and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award (the Queensland Premier's Prize for Poetry), two of the main literary prizes in the country, and was also short-listed for The Age award and the NSW and South Australian Premier’s Literary Prizes. Her first collection, The Wild Reply (Black Pepper Press, 1997) won The Age award. Emma Lew's poetry is marked by the pungency of her language and the dramatic intensity of her poems, often couched in the form of estranged monologues. Her lines can sometimes seem disconnected, but the pile-up of effects works like a montage, and the skewed observations circle their subject, searching for the core reality at the heart of the poem. This book is published in the UK and the USA by arrangement with Giramondo Publishing.' (Publication summary)

2002 winner y separately published work icon Afterimages Robert Gray , Potts Point : Duffy and Snellgrove , 2002 Z947827 2002 selected work poetry prose
2001 winner y separately published work icon Barefoot Speech John Mateer , Fremantle : Fremantle Press , 2000 Z481117 2000 selected work poetry Mateer's third collection of poems moves through issues as diverse as sexuality, supermarkets and Aboriginal presence to a powerful revisiting of his place of birth, South Africa. Written in 1995, following the first free election, the South African poems are meditations on memory and political change. The collection concludes with consideration of the relationship between the human and the Australian natural world.
2000 winner y separately published work icon Iceman : An Expansive Narrative John Millett , Wollongong : Five Islands Press , 1999 Z98513 1999 sequence poetry war literature
1999 winner Alzheimer's Fugue i "Unwitting you board your last flight", Patricia Irvine , 2000 single work poetry
— Appears in: Sidewalk , July no. 6 2000; (p. 40)
1999 winner y separately published work icon Pure and Applied Gig Ryan , Brooklyn : Craftsman House Paper Bark Press , 1998 Z422756 1998 selected work poetry
1998 winner y separately published work icon Broken Land : 5 Days in Bre, 1995 Coral Hull , Wollongong : Five Islands Press , 1997 Z570786 1997 selected work poetry
1997 winner Open Ashes i "Your great-grandchildren place red carnations", Deb Matthews-Zott , 1998 single work poetry
— Appears in: Friendly Street Poets no.22 1998; (p. 62)
1997 winner y separately published work icon Subhuman Redneck Poems Les Murray , Potts Point : Duffy and Snellgrove , 1996 Z175001 1996 selected work poetry (taught in 1 units)

'In this collection of poems, farmers, fathers, poverty-stricken pioneers, and people blackened by the grist of the sugar mills are exposed to the blazing midday sun of Murray's linguistic powers. Richly inventive, tenderly perceptive, and fiercely honest, these poems surprise and bare the human in all of us.'  (Publication summary)

1996 winner y separately published work icon In the Human Night Peter Bakowski , Sydney : Hale and Iremonger , 1995 Z239499 1995 selected work poetry
1995 winner y separately published work icon Anima and Other Poems Bruce Beaver , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1994 Z456587 1994 selected work poetry humour
1994 winner y separately published work icon Certain Things Robert Gray , Port Melbourne : Heinemann , 1993 Z508604 1993 selected work poetry
1993 winner y separately published work icon Translations from the Natural World Les Murray , Paddington : Isabella Press , 1992 Z208589 1992 selected work poetry Translations from the Natural World, Les Murray's new collection of poems, is, like all his work, rich in inventiveness, perception, and a rare delight in the mimetic powers of language. Its centerpiece is 'Presence', a sequence of forty 'translations from the natural world' about a variety of natural settings and their amazing denizens. Lyre birds, honeycombs, sea lions, cuttlefish, and possums all act as spurs to Murray's protean talents for description and imitation. As Lachlan MacKinnon wrote in The Times Literary Supplement, 'These poems, a grand tour of the given, are a great hymn to the particularities in which God's creative generosity is expressed, and they will be widely enjoyed and admired. Their technical and linguistic largesse confirms . . . that Les Murray is one of the very finest poets in whom the English language is now at work.' (Libraries Australia)
1992 winner y separately published work icon Jane, Interlinear and Other Poems Robert Harris , Sydney : Paper Bark Press , 1992 Z11213 1992 selected work poetry humour satire
1991 winner y separately published work icon The Winter Baby Jennifer Maiden , Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1990 Z343099 1990 selected work poetry

The book's sections, with their subtly seasonal patterning, are designed to complement each other and to enrich the reader's imagination through the exacting precision of a style distinguished by its dextrous control. (Source: back cover)

1990 winner y separately published work icon The Clean Dark Robert Adamson , Sydney : Paper Bark Press , 1989 Z367130 1989 selected work poetry
1989 winner y separately published work icon Bone Scan Gwen Harwood , Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1988 Z527016 1988 selected work poetry
1988 winner y separately published work icon The Domesticity of Giraffes Judith Beveridge , Wentworth Falls : Black Lightning Press , 1987 Z364451 1987 selected work poetry
1987 winner y separately published work icon The Auschwitz Poems Lily Brett , Melbourne : Scribe , 1986 Z363934 1986 selected work poetry
1986 joint winner y separately published work icon St Clair : Three Narratives John Scott , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1986 Z408715 1986 selected work poetry
1986 joint winner y separately published work icon Washing the Money : Poems with Photographs Rhyll McMaster , North Ryde : Angus and Robertson , 1986 Z383363 1986 selected work poetry
1985 joint winner y separately published work icon The Three Fates and Other Poems Rosemary Dobson , Sydney : Hale and Iremonger , 1984 Z514474 1984 selected work poetry
1985 joint winner y separately published work icon Your Shadow : (Poems 1980-83) Kevin Hart , Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1984 Z447650 1984 selected work poetry
X